By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch

U.S. equities were facing a moderately weaker open on Thursday, as stock futures edged lower a day after the S&P 500 suffered its biggest loss in months and the Dow industrials backed further away from 20,000.

Weekly jobless claims and trade-balance data will be in focus for investors on Wednesday.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 12 points to 19,763, while those for the S&P 500 index eased 0.3 point to 2,245. Nasdaq-100 futures slipped 3.25 points to 4,920.50.

The S&P 500 saw the biggest one-day and percentage drop since October 11 (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dow-on-track-to-make-a-fresh-attempt-to-hurdle-over-20000-2016-12-28) on Wednesday, falling 0.8% , or 18.96, to 2,249.92, while Dow industrials fell 111.36 points, or 0.6%, to 19,833.68, the biggest drop since Dec. 14. The losses came as an index that measures pending home sales unexpectedly fell 2.5% in November (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/pending-home-sales-fall-25-in-november-as-trump-win-raises-mortgage-costs-2016-12-28), to the lowest level in more than a year.

Opinion: Santa seems to be a no-show at the stock market again (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/santa-seems-to-be-a-no-show-at-the-stock-market-again-2016-12-28)

Stocks have been rallying on the view that President-elect Donald Trump's administration will spur economic growth via spending and tax cuts, though there have been concerns that the moves have come too far and too fast. Meanwhile, expectations that inflation will rise as well have pushed up interest rates, and mortgage rates have been jumping in step with that.

Analysts said there may be extra pressure on weekly jobless claims and advance trade in goods for November, both due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

"Any disappointment could cause a further disillusion regarding the U.S. recovery and encourage a deeper correction in the U.S. markets, given that there is room for significant pullback following the relentless, two-month rally in the U.S. stock markets following Donald Trump's appointment as the U.S.'s next president," said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior market analyst at London Capital Group, in a note.

Investors are also navigating thin volumes, which can at times exacerbate moves. Thursday marks the next to the last trading session of the year.

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Stocks to watch: A $750 million defamation lawsuit was filed against CBS Corp. (CBSA) on Wednesday by Burke Ramsey, the older brother of a 6-year-old beauty queen who was mysteriously killed in 1996. Ramsey claims a prime-time special by the network defamed him for publicity and profit (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/jonbenet-ramseys-brother-sues-cbs-for-defamation-2016-12-28).

(FBIO)Fortress Biotech Inc. (FBIO) shares soared 75% in late trading Wednesday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fortress-bio-soars-after-reporting-breakthrough-with-car-t-cancer-approach-2016-12-28) after the company reported a breakthrough with a cancer treatment that has suffered of late.

Other markets: The dollar was under pressure on Thursday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dollar-weakens-against-yen-taking-a-hit-on-weak-us-home-sales-2016-12-29) against major crosses, and strength in the Japanese yen contributed to a 1.3% drop for the Nikkei 225 index . Elsewhere, Asian stocks were lightly mixed. Europe logged moderate losses (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-stocks-break-3-day-winning-run-deepen-losses-for-2016-2016-12-29), with banking shares under pressure.

WTI oil futures were lower after data from industry group American Petroleum Institute showed that crude inventories likely expanded last week (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-prices-slide-as-us-supply-data-shows-unexpected-spike-2016-12-29), against expectations for a contraction. Official inventory data from the Energy Information Administration is due later on Thursday.

Gold and silver prices were moving higher.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 29, 2016 05:32 ET (10:32 GMT)

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